Top OTC Secrets From Your Pharmacist

National Survey Shows Pharmacists are an Underutilized Vitamin Resource, Even With Immense OTC Knowledge

A new nationwide survey finds that on average, pharmacists are significantly less likely to face questions from customers about vitamins and supplements as they are about other over-the-counter (OTC) products and prescription medications.  The study also reveals pharmacists' top OTC secrets for a variety of common health topics customers do ask about.

Many Americans don't realize they have unlimited free access to a health expert in the pharmacist at their local pharmacy.  Pharmacists are able to provide detailed guidance on all pharmacy products, including not only prescription medications, but also OTC products like vitamins and supplements. Still, few Americans appear to be tapping their knowledge for OTC products.

For example, the survey finds that pharmacists estimate they answer questions regarding prescription medications for about half of their customers (51 percent). By comparison, they estimate they answer questions about OTC products for just one in three customers (35 percent) — and when it comes to answering questions about vitamins and supplements, they estimate they do so for just one in five customers (23 percent). 

"Pharmacists are just behind the counter at retail stores and pharmacies across the country—they are a wealth of valuable information and all you have to do is ask," comments Jim Morelli, a licensed pharmacist and national health reporter. 

According to the National Center for Health Statistics more than half of all US adults are now taking supplements, making the services and recommendations of a pharmacist even more valuable today — especially when a doctor's visit can be costly or hard to book. 

"I guide customers through various health-related questions and always recommend quality vitamins as a key part of their daily routine," says Morelli.  "It's best to consult your personal pharmacist a few times a year to ensure you are taking the right amount and type of vitamins."

Key Survey Findings
Given the important role pharmacists can play in guiding Americans in their vitamin use, the survey, sponsored by Nature Made and conducted among US retail pharmacists, asked pharmacists what they recommend when it comes to a variety of common health topics, from sleep aids to heart health and promoting a healthy immune system. It also aimed to understand pharmacists' perceptions of vitamins and supplements in general. 

Pharmacists' Views on Vitamins

  • 93 percent agree taking vitamins and supplements is important for maintaining overall good health.
  • 85 percent say product quality is a very important factor when it comes to deciding whether or not to recommend a specific brand of vitamin, topping the list of important factors. The majority of pharmacists also point to product purity (77 percent) and product potency (65 percent) as being very important.
  • Two in three (67 percent) tell customers to look for the USP seal or other third-party certification when selecting vitamins and supplements, with half also recommending they look at the form (56 percent) and size (46 percent) of the vitamin or supplement.

Top OTC Pharmacists' Recommendations

  • While it may not be surprising that nine in ten say they are likely to recommend fish oil when it comes to supporting heart health, about two thirds (63 percent) also say they are likely to recommend flaxseed oil for heart health, and about half (47 percent) say the same of garlic.
  • Given the recent news about the fact that most Americans are deficient in vitamin D, it's also not surprising that nine in ten recommend certain vitamins and supplements like vitamin D to fill nutrition gaps. But interestingly, the majority of pharmacists also recommend vitamin D for other health issues, including supporting heart health (77 percent) and promoting a healthy immune system (79 percent).
  • Only about two in five (42 percent) say they are likely to recommend Ginkgo Biloba for mental alertness.
  • More than four in five (82 percent) say they are likely to recommend cranberry for urinary and immune health.
  • When it comes to helping customers maintain energy, most pharmacists recommend B vitamin complex (91 percent) and iron (72 percent). Pharmacists are also more than two times more likely to recommend protein-based products as compared to caffeine-based products (53 percent vs. 17 percent, respectively).

What to Look for in the Pharmacy 
The survey finds that most pharmacists always or at least sometimes recommend a specific brand when it comes to OTC products available at their pharmacy. When it comes to vitamins specifically, about two in three (67 percent) recommend that customers look for the USP seal or other third-party certification.

"Important factors when it comes to recommending a specific brand of vitamins and supplements include product quality, product purity, and product potency," states Morelli. "A key way to determine quality is to look at third-party certification to ensure the vitamins meet the highest standards, such as the USP seal."

For more information on Nature Made vitamins and supplements visit